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Denly, Stokes fifties flatten Australia in fifth Ashes Test
Match Report

Denly, Stokes fifties flatten Australia in fifth Ashes Test

Joe Denly fell just six runs short of his first Test century but still helped England seize control of the final Ashes Test at The Oval as they look to draw the series.

Denly and Ben Stokes, playing as a specialist batsman, added 127 for the third wicket to hammer in the advantage against a tiring Australia bowling attack.

With still two days of play left in the Test match, England have bolstered their chances of ensuring a victory unless Australia are able to accomplish a record chase.

England finished the day at 313-8 having built a potentially match-winning lead of 382 for themselves.

The tourists had patches of brilliance but the lack of frequent breakthroughs and sloppy fielding has left them with an improbable task to pull off a miraculous comeback.

The dismissal of Stokes by off-spinner Nathan Lyon and Denly's departure soon after, ignited hopes of Australia clawing their way back into the game.

But these hopes diminished as the in-form Jos Buttler launched an array of crisp strokes to inflate England's lead.

Meanwhile, Buttler's partner on the other end, Jonny Bairstow failed to make an impact - a consistent pattern witnessed across the series - as he perished off the bowling of Mitchell Marsh for a tame 14.

Australia could not wrest back control of the proceedings as a missed opportunity to review a not-out decision against Buttler added to their woes.

This overly cautious behaviour cost Australia earlier in the day as well when skipper Tim Paine opted against reviewing a not-out verdict with Denly batting on 54 while the replays suggested the ball would have clattered the stumps.

Stokes punishes Australia

Stokes, England's leading run-getter in the five-match series, was reprieved early in the innings when he was dropped on seven by Steve Smith.

After beginning slowly, the southpaw settled into his groove and oozed class with his delectable drives.

The 28-year-old reached his half-century in style when he launched a tremendous hit that sailed over the boundary rope at wide long-on off part-timer Marnus Labuschagne.

Denly, finding his feet in the opening slot, grew in confidence as the innings progressed as his nifty stroke play kept the scoreboard ticking.

The 33-year-old could not get to the three-figure mark when he was undone by a Peter Siddle delivery nipping away after pitching on a good length.

The final session brought some respite for Australia with Smith pulling off a spectacular grab at second slip to send Chris Woakes back to the pavilion.

Buttler's enterprising stay at the crease ended when he top-edged to Labuschagne, who completed a fine catch running in from behind square.

Jofra Archer and Jack Leach, the two not out batsmen at the close of play, would resume batting tomorrow and look to further extend the home side's lead.

World Cup winners England will still be wary of Australia given the fact India made 345 batting fourth at the same venue last year.

The visitors entered the match with the mindset of achieving their first Test series win on English soil since 2001 but they require a herculean effort to attain the dream.